The Good And Bad Of John W Henry, Liverpool's Potential New Owner
So John W Henry, current owner of the Boston Red Sox, is about to take over Liverpool. Being a Florida Marlins fan, and a baseball fan in general, I’m very well aware of Mr. Henry’s history as a baseball owner, so here’s my opinion about what I think he will bring to the club, both the good and the bad.
- John W Henry cares about sports. Before buying the Marlins, he had made unsuccessful bids to purchase about a half-dozen clubs in several leagues before rescuing the Marlins from an uncaring Wayne Huizenga. Henry was looked upon as the savior of baseball in South Florida (more on that in a bit).
- Henry will do what it takes to either upgrade or replace Anfield. Most of his tenure in Miami was focused on getting a new stadium for the Marlins. And when he bought the Red Sox, he started renovating Fenway Park almost immediately upon taking ownership. Talk of replacing Fenway was dismissed rather loudly by the fans, so they upgraded the existing facility instead.
- Henry will bring in the best people he can find to run the football side of Liverpool, even if the choices are out of the box. He hired the youngest General Manager in the history of the league, and hired a well-known baseball writer whose claim to fail is looking at the game as an outsider and through scientific study. Did it work? Absolutely. Henry bought the club right before the 2002 season; in 2004 they were World Champs for the first time since 1918. They won again in 2007. Before Henry, baseball seemed to be the Yankees and everyone else; the Red Sox became equals almost immediately after Henry bought the club.
- Henry has a very fan-friendly approach to the stadium experience. His organization listened to the public and did what they could to make things better at the stadium. Attention will be paid to detail, money will be spent on comforts for the fans, and you can expect Anfield (or whatever a potential new ground will be called) will be changed for the better.
However, things didn’t exactly work out in Miami. The bad:
- When Henry came to Miami, the thought was he was so passionate about baseball, he couldn’t help but succeed. Unfortunately, he put all his eggs in one basket, that being a publicly-funded new stadium for the Marlins. When that didn’t happen, he basically got rid of all his best players on an annual basis, only getting prospects in return. If Liverpool’s finances are in jeopardy, you can expect Liverpool to be very active in the transfer market, and your favorite players might be wearing other shirts as soon as January.
- It cannot be underestimated how much of a disaster Henry was for the Marlins. Once it became clear that the Marlins were not getting their stadium, Henry was secretly looking for a way out. The League actually found one for him – he was going to sell the club and at the same time become the owner of the Boston Red Sox. Imagine selling West Brom and purchasing, well, Liverpool on the same day. It was a three-franchise transaction in which the League Office bought the Montreal Expos from Jeffrey Loria, who bought the Marlins from Henry, who used the proceeds as a portion of the funds to buy the Red Sox. The kicker was the league wanted to put a club in Washington DC. They were going to move either the Marlins or the Expos, but they were not going to let Loria have the Washington club, so they gave Loria a choice as to whether he wanted to keep the Expos in Montreal or keep the Marlins in Miami. He chose Miami, and not long after the Expos relocated to Washington and became the Nationals. Miami was that close from losing their baseball team.
- Henry burned quite a few bridges on the way out of Miami. He badmouthed the scouting system for bringing in “athletes” rather than “baseball players”, which turned out to be hilarious because 18 months after he left here the Marlins won the World Series. He made many promises, including saying he would build the stadium himself if no help was forthcoming, and broke most of them. I tend to root against the Red Sox because of Henry.
It’s my opinion that Henry will bring success to Liverpool, so long as the club is able to survive this current season. The conditions at Anfield will be much more similar to Boston than to Miami. Remember that the American version of “Fever Pitch” was based around the Red Sox (they had to change the ending because the Red Sox unexpectedly won the World Series while the film was being made), whereas Miami sports enthusiasm is pretty lackluster most of the time. If changes need to be made to improve the situation, he will make those changes. So long as he sees a bright future for the club, he will do everything he can to make that happen.
Of course, things don’t always work out the way you plan, and when things went wrong in Florida, he turned into Mike Ashley. But as a Newcastle United supporter, that’s a story for another day.